insurance

5 reasons to review auto insurance & save

Highlights
  • Life changes can either increase or decrease auto premiums.
  • Credit score changes, job loss, home purchase may affect rates.
  • Gap insurance purchase often wise with long-term loan or lease.

Many people consider auto insurance only when they're shopping for a new car. However, drivers can save a lot of money by shopping for a new policy at other times.

If you've had some lifestyle changes, it may mean that you're eligible for cheaper and better coverage, says Christopher Brassard, executive vice president of the Ten Eyck Group, an insurance agency in Albany, N.Y.

"You could get a better price with certain carriers," he says.

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According to the pros, here are five reasons to shop for a new policy.

1. Your credit score is significantly lower or higher than when you first purchased the policy.

Many national car insurance companies consider your credit score when they determine an auto insurance premium. They may give a higher rate to people with a lower score, says Eric Poe, chief operating officer of Citizens United Reciprocal Exchange, an auto insurance company in Princeton, N.J.

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"If your credit score is low, but you're a good driver, you may find a better rate with a company that weighs other factors more heavily, such as your driving record," Poe says.

He suggests finding such a company by contacting your insurance agent or state department of insurance for help.

Remember, credit score issues don't only affect people with debt payment problems. Even borrowers with good credit can see their scores drop if they authorize multiple credit inquiries, says Brassard. Those authorizations could occur for a number of reasons, such as shopping for a new mortgage, buying furniture on a financing plan or opening a new credit card account.

Brassard notes that if your credit rating decreases right before your auto insurance comes due for renewal, and your insurance company takes the new rating into account, the lower score could mean a higher premium on the next insurance cycle.

"Timing can be an issue," he says.

On the other hand, if your credit score has improved substantially since purchasing an auto policy, you may find a better rate with an insurance company that considers credit scores when determining rates.

2. You just got laid off, or start working from home.

Let an agent know if the number of miles on your commute has dropped significantly. Rates may drop if you're driving less, Poe says. If not, shop around to try to find a company that has a lower premium.

The exact cutoff point for a low-mileage driving discount depends on the state you're in, Poe says. For example, in New Jersey, drivers who commute less than three miles per day in one direction may have their cars rated for "pleasure use." This gives the driver the same rate as someone who doesn't commute to work, which is generally the lowest rate, Poe says.

3. You're in the middle of a long-term car lease or loan.

Car loans seem to be getting longer and longer these days.

"I've seen some places advertising 60 and 72 months car loans," says Brassard.

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